Writing Life

Epilepsy & osteoarthritis: depression, anxiety, or ego?

Hi YABookcasers,

I don’t often touch on my personal life through the blog. Sometimes I mention my epilepsy as it’s an important topic to me. Sometimes I talk about my horses and dogs. A few people who know me know I have early-onset osteoarthritis. Today, I felt the need to discuss the difference between depression, anxiety, and ego in relation to medical conditions.

First of all, let me state that this is not a “poor me” post. It’s more of an examination on how emotions come about for people with chronic medical conditions and disorders. And I think it might be helpful for those who don’t, too.

The conditions I have are something I’ve actually struggled with for a few reasons. Epilepsy is an “invisible” condition, which can sometimes make it feel (to me at least) as if I’m just “pretending.” To some people that might sound silly (especially as I have the medical history to prove it), and my epilepsy has made some glorious displays. But on the outside, everything looks fine.

And then there’s the early-onset osteoarthritis. I’m 36, so having osteoarthritis in my spine at this age is frustrating, and I feel like it’s hard for a lot of people to understand that on some days I might not be able to walk, and on others I can, and look quite fine. Again, it’s one of those things that can sometimes appear like I’m “just pretending” (despite the medical exams to back it up).

This got me thinking: is it depression, anxiety, or my ego that creates these feelings I have? Or a mixture of all three? Well, I think it can be a whole mixture of things for a lot of different people, and I’m sure a lot of emotions in there that I haven’t named. And this applies to anyone who suffers from a chronic disease/disorder/etc. However, for me, it’s anxiety, which comes from social stigma…and my ego. Yup. Ego is a major part of why my brain goes to “just pretending.” Because I don’t want to be the person who isn’t strong enough to cope with what I’m sure is “nothing”. I don’t want to be the girl who cried wolf, the attention seeker, the drama queen, etc. Which is why I felt it was important to delve into these feelings…and that is where I found my ego getting in the way.

Ego is a word many people just see as arrogance. However, the Miriam Webster dictionary says:

The self especially as contrasted with another self or the world
2 a : egotism 2
3 : the one of the three divisions of the psyche in psychoanalytic theory that serves as the organized conscious mediator between the person and reality especially by functioning both in the perception of and adaptation to reality — compare id, superego

This first line resonated strongly with me: the self especially as contrasted with another self or the world. And that’s it. Comparison to what you could have been/believe you should be/how you think the world expects you to be. As someone with a neurological disorder and a chronic condition, this is exactly what my ego struggles with – the contrast between me and my “other self.” The self that I believe I am or should be.

And then I look at the last line where it says “the organized conscious mediator between the person and reality.” The ego isn’t necessarily the arrogant mediator. It is simply a mediator. And that can be an anxious one, a self-assured one, a clueless one. A thousand variations, and interchangeable depending on the situation. For me, when it comes to chronic medical conditions, whatever they may be, it is my fluctuating mediator that pulls the strings.

So how do I combat this?

To be honest, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I just have to let the feeling of anxiety and wrongness wash over me. Sometimes I have to take that dent to my pride. But the thing is, knowing about my ego makes me more aware of myself. It makes me look at my psyche to determine how accurate my lens of perspective truly is. To show me that if I change or even just acknowledge the “mediator” in my mind, I can change how I perceive myself, how I feel, how I cope with what I deal with.

So do I have an ego? Yes. Yes I do. And is that a bad thing? For me, it certainly isn’t – unless you simply look at it through the definition of arrogance. But by now, we all know our ego is so much more than that. So whether you battle with medical conditions, mental health issues, or neither, I encourage you to examine your own ego, your own mediator, and see what it tells you about yourself, and how you can use that wonderful ego of yours to your advantage!

Until next post!

Fiona xox


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